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Effects of Two Versions of an Empathy-Based Rape Prevention Program on Fraternity Men's Survivor Empathy, Attitudes, and Behavioral Intent to Commit Rape or Sexual Assault

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Fraternity men (N = 261) at a small to midsized public university saw one of two versions of a rape prevention program or were in a control group. Program participants reported significant increases in empathy toward rape survivors and significant declines in rape myth acceptance, likelihood of raping, and likelihood of commit-ting sexual assault. Program participants' scores significantly differed from an untreated control group in several areas. Implications for describing a male-on-male rape to increase men's empathy toward female survivors and other related attitudes are discussed. The number of incidents of rape and other forms of sexual assault survived by college students is alarmingly high. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a survey of over 4,600 college students at 136 institutions that 20% of college women and 4% of college men have been raped at some point in their lifetime (Douglas et al., 1997). In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice found in a nationwide survey of over 4,000 college women that 3% experienced rape or attempted rape during an 8-month academic year; 24% of women in the same study experienced either rape or attempted rape in their lifetime (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). In roughly three out of four cases where a man rapes a woman in college, the woman is intoxicated (Mohler-Kuo, Dowdall, Koss, & Wechsler, 2004). In each of these studies, the
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... College males primed to experience empathy demonstrated lower RMA as compared with their non-primed peers (Schewe & O'Donohue, 1993). An evaluation of a sexual assault prevention program for college men found that empathy priming was related negatively to RMA and positively to empathy for rape victims (Foubert & Newberry, 2006). Conversely, in a similar study, men primed to feel empathy for a female rape victim scored higher on likelihood of committing rape than men in male rape victim and control conditions (Berg et al., 1999). ...
... In sum, the extant literature on sexual assault suggests that narcissism and RMA are positively related to sexual assault and rape perpetration (Abbey & McAuslan, 2004;Mouilso & Calhoun, 2012). While deficient empathy is a core feature of narcissism and there is evidence empathy can be primed (Batson et al., 1995a, b;Teachman et al., 2003), there are mixed findings for empathy priming in rape and sexual assault prevention studies (Berg et al., 1999;Foubert & Newberry, 2006). Missing from the literature is an understanding of how empathy priming would fare with individuals high in narcissistic traits. ...
... We predicted that participants who receive an empathy priming task would score lower on rape myth acceptance than participants who received instructions to remain objective. This would confirm previous findings that empathy manipulation can alter participants' attitudes and behavioral intentions (Batson et al., 1995a, b;Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Schewe & O'Donohue, 1993;Teachman et al., 2003). We also predicted that participants with higher baseline empathy would demonstrate lower RMA than those low in empathy, supporting the link between empathy and RMA in the literature (Quackenbush, 1989;Tieger, 1981). ...
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The perpetration of rape and sexual assault on college campuses is a pervasive problem that has been linked to narcissism and rape myth acceptance. Studies evaluating empathy priming-based prevention programs have yielded mixed results, and empathy priming has not been examined specifically among high-risk populations. The present study sought to address this gap in the literature by exploring how empathy priming interacts with narcissistic traits to predict heterosexual college males’ (n = 74) rape myth acceptance. Participants read a vignette depicting a date rape and were either primed to be empathetic or objective. Results showed that baseline empathy and narcissism were negatively and positively associated with rape myth acceptance, respectively. After priming, participants low on narcissistic traits had lower rape myth acceptance when they were in the empathy (vs. the objective) condition, whereas individuals high in narcissistic traits had higher rape myth acceptance when they were in the empathy priming condition. Findings suggest that males who were at higher risk of perpetration more strongly endorsed problematic beliefs about rape after being asked to empathize with a fictional rape victim. Future prevention and intervention studies should incorporate measures of personality traits and continue to explore the possibility that empathy priming may produce the opposite of the intended effect among high-risk males.
... Both college men high in sexism, but also those at low risk for perpetration, can react adversely to the suggestion that they could be involved in sexual violence (Bosson, Parrott, Swan, Kuchynka, & Schramm, 2015;Spikes & Sternadori, 2018). Despite this possibility, sexual assault prevention programs for men routinely engage their audiences in critical reflection (Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Gidycz et al., 2011). To reduce the likelihood of such a reaction, facilitators might highlight the complex nature of sexual consent and the risks of sexual behavior under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the possibility that a man can think he has consent when he does not, which will lead him to feel falsely accused later on. ...
... Building empathy is a common target for bystander training programs (Banyard, Moynihan, & Plante, 2007;Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Palm Reed, Hines, Armstrong, & Cameron, 2015). While men's empathy for sexual assault victims is related to their likelihood of intervening as a bystander (Kotze & Turner, 2019) and negatively associated with actual perpetration and its known risk factors (Hudson-Flege, Grover, Mece, Ramos, & Thompson, 2020;Wheeler, George, & Dahl, 2002), the evidence for promoting empathy with sexual assault victims as a technique to promote intervention and reduce rape likelihood among men is equivocal. ...
... While men's empathy for sexual assault victims is related to their likelihood of intervening as a bystander (Kotze & Turner, 2019) and negatively associated with actual perpetration and its known risk factors (Hudson-Flege, Grover, Mece, Ramos, & Thompson, 2020;Wheeler, George, & Dahl, 2002), the evidence for promoting empathy with sexual assault victims as a technique to promote intervention and reduce rape likelihood among men is equivocal. One study found that only women were influenced by the empathy component of such a program (Hines, Bishop, & Palm Reed, 2019), while others suggest that men's increases in empathy for victims can be related to other desirable treatment outcomes (e.g., Foubert & Newberry, 2006). This can be done by soliciting workshop participants' observations and feelings about women they know who have been raped. ...
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Overestimation of the prevalence of false accusations of sexual assault is prevalent among boys and men, with substantial consequences for their ability to be allies to sexual assault victims. This chapter provides an overview of how and why this overestimation has developed and is perpetuated. Accurate rates of false reports, experiences of prevention educators with discussing this topic, and recommendations for facilitators are provided.
... Further, male victims are less likely to seek psychological help after experiencing sexual assault due to the fear of being blamed or disbelieved (Masho & Alvanzo, 2010). One approach to reducing rape myth acceptance toward women involves increasing men's rape victim empathy by exposing them to a man's experience of sexual assault and relating his story to women's experiences (Foubert, 2000;Foubert & Newberry, 2006). While this approach can sensitize men to women's victimization (Foubert & Perry, 2007), this method could also be effective in challenging male rape myths. ...
... Studies have found empathy priming to be a useful tool in reducing sexually aggressive attitudes (O'Donohue et al., 2003) and increasing empathy toward survivors (Foubert & Newberry, 2006). O'Donohue et al. (2003) tested the effectiveness of utilizing women's stories of sexual assault and empathy processing ("how would you feel if you were in her shoes?") to reduce rape myth acceptance, increase victim empathy, and decrease intentions to engage in sexually aggressive behavior among college men. ...
... The Men's Program is an all-male sexual assault prevention program that uses a male-on-male rape experience of a police officer to draw connections between the male officer's thoughts and emotions and female survivor's experiences (Foubert & Newberry, 2006). Foubert and Newberry (2006) determined that the prevention program, including the male survivor story and empathy training, significantly decreased female rape myth acceptance and significantly increased empathy for women survivors. ...
Article
Male sexual assault is an understudied area. Interventions aimed at reducing negative attitudes toward male survivors have received relatively little attention in the field of sexual assault and violence. This may be related to underreported or insufficient data on male survivors or possibly the acceptance of male rape myths. The current research examines the effect of a hypothetical male sexual assault survivor story and empathy writing task on changes in male rape myth acceptance (MRMA) among U.S. men and women (N = 95). Further, the researchers sought to understand the differences between men and women in MRMA change scores and state emotional empathy for the hypothetical survivor after the empathy induction. Finally, the researchers examined whether state emotional empathy would predict reductions in MRMA and whether participant sex would predict state emotional empathy for the hypothetical survivor after accounting for knowing a male survivor and preinduction MRMA. The results indicated that both men and women experienced significant decreases in MRMA postinduction, and men and women experienced similar levels of change. Additionally, state emotional empathy and preinduction MRMA were the only significant predictors of change scores. Although women reported higher state emotional empathy for the hypothetical survivor, sex was not a significant predictor of state emotional empathy after accounting for personally knowing a male survivor and preinduction MRMA. This research fills a gap in the literature by identifying men's stories of sexual assault and empathy writing as potential methods to reduce MRMA.
... Prevention programs might specifically target rape myth beliefs among men and those who join all-male peer and/or religious groups in order to reduce rape myth endorsement and help lower risk of perpetration of sexual aggression driven by endorsing such beliefs. Indeed, Foubert's Men's Program has targeted fraternity men in particular who demonstrated decreased rape myth acceptance after participating in the program (Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Foubert, Newberry, & Tatum, 2007). Some scholars also suggest separating prevention programming groups by gender (Lonsway et al., 2009;Vladutiu, Martin, & Macy, 2011). ...
... Besides review studies, many individual studies on prevention interventions demonstrate the effectiveness of efforts at reducing rape myth acceptance (Gidycz et al., 2001;Zinzow et al., 2018). One such intervention, the "Men's Program," achieved reduced rape myth endorsement across several separate studies (Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Foubert, Brasfield, Hill, & Shelley-Tremblay, 2011) with the reduction in rape myth endorsement remaining after 7 months for some groups of men (Foubert et al., 2007). Other interventions found effective at addressing rape myth acceptance rates include a web-based program, administered across 80 institutions, wherein 34% of the schools found reduced rape myth beliefs among participants (Zapp, Buelow, Soutiea, Berkowitz, & DeJong, 2018). ...
Chapter
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Changing problematic attitudes about sexual violence, or “rape myths,” has remained a central focus of sexual violence prevention efforts and research for a number of decades. The following chapter reviews the role of rape myth beliefs in sexual violence prevention including its conceptualization, measurement, correlates, and ability to predict the perpetration of sexual aggression. The chapter concludes with a review of how rape myths are addressed in the context of prevention as well as future areas needing investigation.
... Some (but not all) research suggests that single gender approaches may be more effective in terms of prevention approaches (DeGue et al., 2014). Prevention interventions such as the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act program has shown efficacy in reducing completed rape among cisgender women, explicitly addresses sexual identity and is currently being validated with transgender women (Senn et al., 2021), whereas the Men's Project addresses men in general (Foubert & Newberry, 2006), but includes information about same-sex sexual violence. These gender-based approaches may not be appropriate, however, for nonbinary individuals, and more research is needed to assess whether programming improves outcomes among transgender and cisgender sexual minority men as well as their cisgender heterosexual peers. ...
Article
Gender and sexual minority university students experience higher rates of sexual violence than their cisgender heterosexual peers. The objectives of this study were to use a qualitative thematic analysis to understand how gender and sexual minority students discuss (a) gender and sexuality in describing their sexual violence experiences and (b) their reactions to sexual violence experiences where gender and sexuality were considered. Participants were drawn from a mixed-methods study addressing experiences of sexual violence in university contexts and were eligible for the current study if they (a) reported a sexual or gender minority identity and (b) described their sexual violence experience (n = 223). We used an iterative and inductive process to examine descriptions of university-based sexual violence and identified three themes in how participants discussed gender and sexuality in describing their sexual violence experiences. These were (a) direct discussion of their own sexual or gender identities (where subthemes of precipitating and shaping responses were identified), (b) discussion of elements of the sexual violence experience that are particularly salient to gender and sexual minority populations (where subthemes of homophobia and transphobia, gender nonconformity were identified), and (c) reactions to gender and sexuality-related sexual violence experiences (where subthemes of pushout and minimization were identified). These findings suggest the importance of gender and sexuality in gender and sexual minority students’ descriptions of university-based sexual violence experiences, and implications for intervention and prevention efforts are discussed.
... While collective emotional control climate was a statistically significant predictor of solidarity sexual assault attitude, it was not found by McCready (2019McCready ( , 2020 to have statistically significant relationships with alcohol consumption or social dominance hazing endorsement. Because empathy may directly or indirectly diminish sexual assault attitudes or sexually aggressive behaviors (Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Le et al., 2020), fraternity cultures that collectively devalue the display of emotions may influence members to support members accused of sexual assault over survivors. Unlike the relationship between collective emotional control climate and solidarity sexual assault attitude, members in chapters with these climates may learn that alcohol consumption and hazing support may be ineffective in earning and maintaining manhood because they may lead to men expressing emotions. ...
Article
Relying on data collected from a single historically White college social men’s fraternity (N = 2,691) represented at 77 higher education institutions in the United States and Canada, we utilized multilevel modeling to explore if collective chapter traditional masculine norm climates, as well as individual masculinity norm conformity, predicted the variance of members’ endorsement of minimization, solidarity, survivor-blaming, and survivor support sexual assault attitudes. We also examined if these attitudes varied significantly between fraternity chapters. The findings indicate masculine norm climates and individual masculine norm conformity predict these attitudes. In addition, the results suggest that sexual assault attitudes vary between fraternity chapters.
... Effective prevention strategies are critical on college and university campuses to address high rates of victimization and to provide students with a safe educational environment. Among college students, studies have suggested lifetime sexual assault victimization rates for women that range anywhere from 20 to 50 percent (Foubert and Newberry 2006;Choate 2003;Banyard et al. 2007;Earle 1996). To make matters worse, in their study of sex crime offenders, Lisak and Miller (2002, 80) found that campus perpetrators are usually serial offenders who commit on average six attempted or completed rapes. ...
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The socio-ecological model of prevention focuses on how one's social environment supports rape-enabling attitudes. We propose that an analysis of students' narratives, as related to their personal opinions about sexual assault prevention, may provide a different perspective on their attitudes, and insight for the formulation of strategic prevention messages and programs. Our findings suggest that student narratives about sexual violence often blame the victims. We explore these topics by drawing comparisons between the frames for discussing domestic violence in various print media identified by Nancy Berns (2004) and the framing of sexual violence in student newspapers in our sample.
... Additionally, our findings (coupled with observations from prior research) can inspire researchers to partner with practitioners in new prevention program development efforts. Several programs targeting empathy-building have already been attempted (e.g., Foubert & Newberry, 2006;Foubert & Perry, 2007), and expanding upon those efforts may produce significantly better preventative outcome. For instance, researchers and organizations seeking to address sexual violence can partner in prospective studies (such as Loh et al., 2005) to evaluate predictors and programs, which can then further inform the development of intervention programming. ...
Article
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Sexual violence prevention on college campuses has received significant recent attention. A prevalent intervention paradigm has centered around re-educating young people around consent and reduce endorsement of "rape myths," based on the correlation between rape myths and sexual violence incidents. Yet many of these programs have not measurably reduced sexual assaults. We evaluated the predictive value of a rape myth measure, as compared to other predictors (criminal history, childhood victimization, aggressive tendencies, substance use, and empathy), in predicting self-reported acts of forcible and incapacitated sexual assault in college-age men (N = 304) from 45 U.S. states. Across three logistic regression model pairs, rape myths were weakly associated with violence when considered as sole predictors. However, this predictive power dissipated when other predictors were included. Comprehensive models accounted significantly better for variability in outcomes; with criminal history demonstrating consistent predictive effects. Based on these findings, we recommend further research into prevention programming based on other predictors of violence.
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Sexual assault is prevalent on college campuses, with research showing that one in five undergraduate college women will be victims of sexual assault. Previous research has identified highly-masculine settings in higher education, such as fraternities and male athletic teams, as high-risk populations for sexual assault perpetration, resulting in the development of multiple interventions targeted at these groups. To date the effectiveness of these programs among this subpopulation has not been examined, as such, this systematic review examined the effectiveness of sexual assault interventions aimed towards fraternities and male collegiate athletic teams. To synthesize the existing scientific evidence five databases were searched resulting in a 5859-article screening. A total of 10 articles met full text criteria. Qualitative synthesis of these articles provided evidence to support the effectiveness of these programs in preventing sexual assault from these high-risk and highly masculine groups. A meta-analysis of five intervention effects among fraternity members indicated promising effects in the reduction of rape myth beliefs. Given the disproportionate number of sexual assault intervention programs aimed at fraternity members, future intervention programs should also target men in collegiate athletic teams.
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